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Jewish World Review August 1, 2001 / 12 Menachem-Av 5761

Don Feder

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Gay marriage undermines institution -- MATT DANIELS and Bryan Rudnick will never be mistaken for identical twins.

One is an evangelical Christian in his late 30s, the other is 23 years old and Jewish. Daniels, who grew up in a single-parent family in Spanish Harlem and went to law school, is married and has a two-year old son. Rudnick, a Brandeis graduate, is single.

But both are leaders of the movement to save marriage, which speaks to the institution's universality.

As head of the Alliance for Marriage, Daniels recently unveiled an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. This fall, Rudnick's Massachusetts Citizens Alliance will collect signatures to put a similar amendment on the state ballot.

While denouncing the amendments as devious and discriminatory, gay activists are quietly working to have the courts mandate same-sex marriage.

Knowing the public hates the idea of marriage falling prey to the fads of the day, activists have taken their case to the forum most insulated from democracy. In 1993, they got the Hawaii Supreme Court to rule the state's marriage law discriminated on the basis of sex by limiting matrimony to those of different genders.

By a two-to-one margin, Hawaiians amended their constitution to overrule the court. The same scenario unfolded in Alaska.

In all, 34 states passed defense of marriage acts. Congress followed suit in 1996, with a law defining marriage under federal statute and exempting states from recognizing same-sex unions contracted elsewhere.

But the gay-rights movement kept looking for an opening.

In 1999, it finally succeeded in Vermont, whose high court ordered the legislature to either issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or give them all the benefits of marriage. The state was targeted because amending its constitution by citizen-initiative takes years. Thus was democracy checkmated.

Confronted with the court's ultimatum, Vermont's legislature opted for civil unions. Of the 1,500 couples who have been civilly united, more than two-thirds are from out of state.

Some are already suing to force their home states to recognize the arrangement, arguing the federal law violates the Constitution's requirement that states give each other's enactments full faith and credit.

Eventually, a case will come before the U.S. Supreme Court. Here, Romer vs. Evans (1996) is cause for concern. In Romer, the court struck down a Colorado amendment blocking the enactment of gay-rights laws, reasoning it could only be explained as irrational "animus" toward homosexuals. The court could invalidate the federal statute on the same grounds.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal last Friday, Jonathan Rauch of the Independent Gay Forum claims Daniels' amendment would pre-empt state legislatures from enacting same-sex marriage (it wouldn't). "Leave gay marriage to the states," Rauch pleas. He means, leave it to our friends in the state courts.

Amending the U.S. Constitution is the only way to stop judges from repealing the laws of nature.

In the meantime, state courts must be estopped with efforts such as Rudnick's. A gay marriage case is pending before the Suffolk, Mass., Superior Court, whose chief justice has announced she personally favors the cause.

Of Rudnick's proposal, Jennifer Levi of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders charges, "It hurts families and the children, not helps them."

And turning marriage into a free-form institution is good for children? Calling any relationship a marriage makes marriage less attractive by making it less exclusive. We want men and women to marry because -- after our 30-year experiment with single-parenting -- we understand that children need both a mother and a father. Even Heather with her "two mommies" needs to know that this is not the family society sanctions.

The it-hurts-children argument is a smoke screen. Activists want their lifestyle validated regardless of the social costs.

Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, archbishop of Philadelphia, who supports the Daniels amendment, says the traditional definition of marriage is "non-negotiable and irrevocable." If the overwhelming majority of Americans have any say in the matter, it will remain so.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest books are Who is afraid of the Religious Right? ($15.95) and A Jewish conservative looks at pagan America ($9.95). To receive an autographed copy, send a check or money order to: Don Feder, The Boston Herald, 1 Herald Sq., Boston, Mass. 02106. Doing so will help fund JWR, if so noted. He is also available as a guest speaker. To comment on this column please click here.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate